22/05/2019 ............ KOS 45th Anniversary trip Mid / North Wales 15 - 19 May 2019
As tradition demands we began this Spring anniversary trip at the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve. 17 KOS members arriving at about 10:15am after the two hour drive from Cheshire and availed ourselves of the facilities at the Artisans Cafe, just down from the RSPB information centre, ready for the slog up the hill to our usual vantage point.
The small RSPB hide in the cafe car park was attracting fewer birds than usual as the feeders weren't in use, nevertheless early arrivals did have a Marsh Tit which was a good start to the holiday as we didn't expect to find one elsewhere. Pied Flycatchers showed well at the bottom of the hill whilst further up the slope Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers and Redstarts were all in song. It was a lovely morning, just a few scattered clouds and a temperature of about 18C as we reached the summit, so we spent sometime sat up there putting the world to rights! The only raptor seen was a Buzzard but a single Crossbill, calling as it passed over, was an unexpected bonus shortly before we returned back down the steep slope. On the way down Sheila found us a Tree Pipit perched right at the top of an ash tree, it posed nicely and everyone had good views through the 'scopes. We ate lunch in the picnic area before walking up to the impressive dam "Hafren Dyfrdwy's hydro turbine at Lake Vyrnwy in Powys, which has been in place since 1904, is the first UK-based hydro turbine to ever be inducted into the Hydroworld Hall of Fame" - not a lot of people know that! Looking down from the dam wall we had excellent views of Grey Wagtails and Dippers; the Dippers were carrying food to their nest hidden away somewhere in the innards of the structure. After driving down the side of the lake we spent a short time walking to the Centenary hide at the far end, not a lot to see there, although we added Mandarin and Sparrowhawk to the trip list. Then it was off over the narrow mountain roads and down into Barmouth, our base for the holiday.
We stayed at the Min-Y-Mor Hotel right on the sea front overlooking Cardigan Bay. It was a nice enough place, a bit dated and could perhaps do with some money spending on it but for the price (we paid £ 70 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast) it was perfectly adequate; The staff were very friendly and the food - both evening meals and freshly cooked breakfasts were excellent.

The following day (Thus. 16th) I took an early morning stroll along the seafront, in previous years we'd had flocks of Manx Shearwaters out at sea but there was no sign of them on this occasion. There were a few Gannets and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flew through but otherwise it was very quiet.
After breakfast we made our way down to the RSPB reserve at Ynys-Hir where we were to spend the whole of the day. We got off to a great start as Sheila heard a singing Wood Warbler as their car approached the reserve's car park (always drive with your car windows open - except when it's raining of course!) so we spent the first 20' watching and listening as the bird moved restlessly through the undergrowth. Simon did well to get such a good picture!
After "signing in" at the reception building, and being mildly admonished for not warning them of our arrival in advance, we moved onto the reserve proper. Other Summer migrants were all present - Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and our first Common Whitethroat of the week plus a very vocal Cuckoo which was later seen in flight by some of the party. A Spotted Flycatcher had been reported but we had no luck there but perhaps we'd find one on Saturday on a shorter return visit. From the Ynys Eidiol viewing screen, as we had lunchtime butties, Reed and Sedge Warbler were singing from the phragmites reeds and a Wigeon appeared on the stretch of water in front of us. Continuing along the 2.5 mile "Red route" we had more Acrocephalus warblers from the boardwalk and a Stonechat singing from a dead willow tree was a nice addition to the day and trip lists.
When we reached the junction of the red and the blue routes some of the party returned to the reception building for well earned coffees or ice cream whilst others continued down to the Marian Mawr hide and were well rewarded with excellent views of a Grasshopper Warbler in song from a barbed wire fence - great stuff, as these birds are normally very secretive and difficult to see hidden away in tangled reeds or undergrowth!
Totaling up when we returned to the hotel I think the trip list was up to 80; well on the way to our target of 100 species for the holiday!

Friday (17th) was to be our raptor day and we would be paying a long-anticipated visit to the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Dyfi Osprey Project and the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Red Kite feeding station.

We'd booked in at Dyfi the previous day and so they were expecting us at 10:00am when we arrived. The setup remains the same as when we last visited in 2015 and, after paying the £4 admission fee, we were given an introductory talk by Kim Williams one of the Dyfi Osprey Project Officers before being let loose on the reserve!
It's perhaps worth mentioning here that by next Spring the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre will have been built and in operation - a brave move, I just hope the Ospreys continue to use the site. There's no guarantee - even the famous Loch Garten birds have not re-appeared for the past two years!
Reed, Sedge and Willow Warblers were singing as we made our way along the boardwalk to the 360 ° observatory where more volunteer wardens were on hand to point us in the right direction and answer any questions about the birds and the wildlife in general. Oh yes - what about this years Ospreys? well they arrived back at the end of March, the same pair as last year, they've laid 3 eggs the first of which is due to hatch at any time (today is 22nd May) - so keep watching the live streaming on the internet.

Leaving the Ospreys we drove further down to Bwlch Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre (NRW) and Red Kite feeding station about 10 miles east of Aberystwyth. There's a nice cafe on site and a number of different trails starting with an easy stroll around the lake up to a 5K yomp over the Cambrian mountains. Which did we choose? yes you're right! Red Kites were everywhere, even with more than an hour to go before the 3pm feeding time. On the lake Little Grebe and a nice female Goosander whilst from the surrounding conifers the unmistakable song of a Goldcrest; surprisingly this was one of only a handful we had during week - they're much more common here in Cheshire than mid-Wales. Kites continued to gather as the clock ticked towards 3pm and as the food was thrown out at the appropriate spot (including into the lake itself) there were about 100 in the air. As the warden moved away and out of sight a feeding frenzy ensued and within about 15' the birds had taken the lot. Simon took over 400 shots during the mayhem - it must be costing him a fortune in film!

On the Saturday (18th) we drove the short distance to Penmaenpool and parked up at the small car park just over the toll bridge before setting off along part of the Mawddach Trail in an easterly direction towards Dolgellau. It was flat and easy walking so people could go at a pace they were comfortable with, before returning along the same route after an hour. The usual suspects were in full song, despite the cloudy (but dry) weather - Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler. One of the latter posed nicely for an extended period and Geoff quickly set up his 'scope so that everyone was able to get a really good view of the bird - always more satisfactory than being pointed in the direction of a rapidly vanishing, tiny spot in the sky half a mile away. "New" species were becoming less frequent but we did manage three during the morning; A Cetti's Warbler briefly exploded into action from the undergrowth as we passed, we heard a Snipe displaying and "chippering" in the distance and Bob Groom added a Common Sandpiper feeding on the bank of the river close to the George III pub. In addition Sue and Jacquie had a Tawny Owl as they walked back to their camper after the evening meal the previous night.
Plans for the afternoon were flexible. Some people returned to Barmouth for retail therapy, others drove down the coast and took a journey back in time with a trip on the Talyllyn steam railway from Tywyn as far as the delightfully named Abergynolwyn. Four of us returned to Ynys Hir in search of the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, stopping at Dyfi on the way for lunch in the little cafe adjacent to the Osprey Centre - I can recommend the minted lamb batch! Everything is sourced locally and the lady at the counter told me they hope to continue with the franchise when the new centre is opened next year.
Nothing new for us at Ynys Hir, the Wood Warbler was still going strong but there was neither sight nor sign of the Spotted Flycatcher seen earlier in the day.

So as we set off on Sunday morning (19th) we had work to do at the RSPB's Conwy reserve - 90 species on the list, still 10 short of our target of 100!
We did quite well with Coot, Gadwall, Greenshank and Curlew quickly added. #95 was a superb little Lesser Whitethroat, singing and showing nicely in a sallow bush next to the path. We hadn't seen a single Tern during the holiday so a Sterna Tern in the distance was ticked off, despite the fact that it wasn't specifically identified. That left us 4 short so there was no option but to drive over to Llandudno's Great Orme! It was a good call - Sue and Jacquie had two Peregrines as they passed through the toll booth gates, stiff winged Fulmars glided overhead and a Rock Pipit hopped onto the wall as we passed. Stopping at a convenient spot close to the lighthouse Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwake obliged and we finished off with a Chough tumbling through the air it's wild cry echoing off the cliff face. Species 103 - job done and time for home!

Once again our thanks go to our KOS Secretary Derek Pike for his hard work organising the accommodation and acting as trip leader, without people who are prepared to do these jobs the Society wouldn't exist, look at the recent fate of the Manchester and Hale ornithological societies.

species seen on our 45th anniversary holiday in Wales - May 2019
Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Shelduck, Mandarin Duck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Pheasant, Fulmar, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Osprey, Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Snipe, Razorbill, Guillemot, Comic Tern, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chough, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Crossbill, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting. [ ✓ 103]

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